On a day when David Samson said an emotional farewell amid regrets, Don Mattingly embraced being part of a new direction for the Miami Marlins, even if it means rebuilding from the ground up.
"Part of my thought about coming to Miami was to build," said Mattingly, who is concluding the second year of a four-year contract as manager. "I came with the thought of basically building, and building something that's sustainable."
Mattingly said Thursday he hasn't yet spoken to Derek Jeter, who will run the baseball operation after the ownership change is completed, expected in the next few days. But from four seasons working with the iconic shortstop while a Yankees coach, Mattingly is well acquainted with Jeter's competitiveness and leadership abilities.
"The one thing I do know from Derek's standpoint is he's a guy that's going to come here and he's going to want to win," Mattingly said. "And he'll have a vision, I think, for the long range where he wants to build the organization where it's not just a chance to win one year."
Given the restraints of revenue that has been the reality of the Marlins in the market, Mattingly said it is imperative that player development in the minor league organization becomes the cornerstone for success.
Mattingly sounded as if he expects that it will be necessary for the Marlins to trade off some of the players who have been the core of the team over the past few seasons, both to help restock the pool of young talent and also to reduce payroll.
"It has to be development where you always have that pipeline filled with young players coming up, being able to fill holes through your minor league system," Mattingly said.
When he took the job before 2015, he said, "I knew we had a good core, that we had some good young players. I knew the window was short, depending on our payroll, what we were able to do and who we're able to hold onto."
Samson, in his final news conference as Marlins president, said that during negotiations on the sale of the team he was impressed that Jeter has the ability to transition from success on the field to management in teaming up with Bruce Sherman, who will become the control person of the franchise.
"It's a whole new game, and he knew it from Day 1," Samson said. "I just spent a lot of time with Derek. I think Derek and Bruce have a plan in place to do it, and I look forward to watching them do it and watching them succeed. They have great ideas of how to increase revenue and how do things differently."
While calling it a true honor to have had a chance to guide the franchise for the past 16 years, Samson expressed disappointment about being unable to produce a winning formula. The Marlins will finish with a losing record for the eighth consecutive season.
Samson sidestepped questions about the payroll needed for the team to succeed financially and on the field.
"I think if you look at Cleveland this year, and Milwaukee and Minnesota, you can see teams go from 100 losses to the playoffs, you see teams with low payrolls win. The question is getting the right combination together," Samson said. "I think that's the one thing we never saw at Marlins Park, we never saw winning."
Nonetheless, Samson defended the legacy of outgoing owner Jeffrey Loria, pointing to the 2003 World Series title, getting the ballpark built and bringing the All-Star Game to Miami as well as numerous charitable efforts.
"The fact is, there's two people responsible for baseball in South Florida," he said, "It's [original owner] Wayne Huizenga and Jeffrey Loria. Without Wayne, there'd be no team to start with. And without Jeffrey, there'd be no team to end with."
On Thursday, Samson met with team employees, and prior to batting practice, met with Mattingly and then the players in the clubhouse.
The future under Jeter and Sherman is as unclear to all of them as it is to fans and everyone else in baseball. Samson said he hoped the community will give the incoming owners the benefit of the doubt in leading the franchise into a new era, even if it means that some popular players will be traded away.
"I enjoyed getting to know them during the [sale] process," he said. "I have great respect for them and their ability. The Marlins really are in good hands."
Samson, whose tenure as team president will end as soon as the sale closes, said he has no set plans aside from attempting in January to run seven marathons on seven continents to raise money for charity.
"I wanted to very much thank the fans and people who aren't fans in this community," he said. "I've always enjoyed the back-and-forth, talking with fans and talking about different ways of what we all wanted to accomplish, which was the same goal."
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